If you asked me years ago what it meant to love someone, I would have told you that it means to abandon yourself completely and let the other person take advantage of you. All the while you feed them grapes.
No, but on a little more serious note, it wasn't far from that.
Lately, everyone has had their eyes open to narcissism. Like it was the disorder of the year, I don't like to call it disorders since it limits the potential of the person. And it bothers the hell out of me that we demonize narcissistic people. Not because they aren't abusive, not at all. But because yet again we humans create a scapegoat someone to blame and with that we miss out on the opportunity for self-awareness. From my observation narcissism and co-dependency are the common relationship style today just in different degrees of course.
Again don't get me wrong, I grew up with self-centred people and spent my life figuring out how to heal the pain of a lost and abused self. A journey I am still on and knowing I am far from the only one makes it even more important.
And many times the co-dependency and narcissism overlap each other. If you become aware enough you will clearly see that in some relationships you are acting co-dependently while in others it is reversed you become the narcissistic one. The universe functions like a mirror so this shouldn't be surprising.
For example, you had a narcissistic partner. You manage to decide to leave the relationship (or trap to be more exact). Naturally, there will be a period of deep healing, and that means feeling all of your feelings. The good, the bad and the ugly. This is crucial in processing all your hurt emotions. The issue I have seen is being stuck in this phase. And it is liberating realizing what you just went through is abusive and you blame the other person because you were victimized. After a while, you will start to feel powerless again. You come to understand the pathology of narcissism, you understand this person is not going to be saved by you and it was never your job to save anyone. And that my friend will piss you off even more. Here we enter a slippery slope. One crucial thing I learned early on, was that the co-dependant fills a need by being with the narcissist. They fit like the glove, both are looking outside themselves for a sense of self.
The healthy thing to do when you are ready is to take the laser focus you put on the narcissist and turn it around on yourself. It is crucial to start asking ourselves the hard questions of why? All the why's. Why did I feel this was the only love I deserve? What deep wound of rejection and abandonment have I been trying to run away from?
What feeling is underneath the anger? Why am I letting their actions (or lack of actions ) mean something about me?
When you dig deep enough to come to the bottom of your wounds you also choose to not be controlled by it anymore but to face it. See, co-dependency has the same wounded self that a narcissistic person does. The difference is that the co-dependant person will get their needs of approval met by being the "good guy".
This takes you out of the victim vibration and into empowerment. It is signalling that you are ready to grow.
None of us would find ourselves in a narcissistic situation unless we experienced a similar dynamic in our childhoods. Remember, we only attract the love we think we deserve. When we encounter someone who reminds us of the way we were treated and felt when we were children, we assume this is love.
The work begins in that land of awareness where you are confronted with the messed up message most of us got growing up. That we are unworthy and inadequate just for being who we are. These are stories we have bought into for far too long.
So, to make it simple and to the point, here are some tips I collected along the way that can help you out and these can be applied whether you feel co-dependent or narcissistic since the core wound is the same.
- Let yourself FEEL. All of it, the confusion, the misery, the panic, the gaslight oh my. Let yourself pour out into a safe container. You see, the ones of us suffering from these kinds of attachments emotionally handle things like toddlers. We were never shown how to process and express our feelings in a mature way. Guess why? Well raised by narcissists so it was toddlers raising toddlers. Yes, that should scare you. It sure as hell scares me.
- Make self-love your best friend. It is hard to know where to start with self-love since society teaches us to be selfless. So naturally, we have the belief that loving ourselves makes us selfish. That is the biggest lie ever told. Self-love is like filling up a cup, so much that it spills over. It is a genuine extension of your love and not just coming from a void of fear and unfulfilled emotional needs. Take time to approve of yourself every day, raise your self-esteem and there are many ways to do that. Please surround yourself with gentle people you trust that can support you through this journey. If you find you don't have anyone like that, please know they will show up and now is the time to be kind to yourself so take advantage of the internet and connect with strangers! There are millions of people going through the same thing and communities online are incredibly healing.
- Learn about your attachment style. Our attachments are formed in early childhood. Specifically in our infancy. Going through all of them would be an article in and of itself. And I am not a psychologist just someone with a lot of experience and curiosity. Instead, I will list them. There is plenty of information out there about them.
Secure attachment style
Anxious attachment style
Avoidant attachment style
Fearful-avoidant / disorganized attachment
- Creating secure attachment requires building a healthy sense of self, and that means strengthening your self-esteem. Growing up we learned to play it safe and keep ourselves small. Hating ourselves was a way to adapt. We need a big dose of self-acceptance and approval. There are again many ways to do this. Writing a list of all the things you like about yourself would be one example. As you do this watch yourself start feeling bigger, like all of a sudden you are sitting up taller. The thing is we are all unique, sure this world ushers us to be just like everyone else but the truth is, you are not like everyone else. No one is. Every one of us carries a spark that is infused with our unique qualities and getting in touch with that improves the relationship with ourselves and in turn, improves all the other relationships we have in life.
Having a secure attachment means having a safe base to fall back on.
- Compassion and forgiveness. Do not by any means rush this process. Many times we want to be seen as good people, both by ourselves and others and this can be particularly true when it comes to us in the spiritual community. But spirituality isn't about being the good guy and eradicating the bad guy. it's about realizing that under the right circumstances we can all be the bad guy, and these roles will change many times in life depending on the situation and person at hand. People that are deeply narcissistic or co-dependants are that way because of trauma. They did not wake up one day plotting how to make life hard for people or themselves. Again, this part of the process should never be rushed, you can strive to get there but you will know when you are mature for it. Forgiving yourself can many times be harder than forgiving another person. Let yourself grieve.
With that being said. We are all humans that get hurt and hurt others. It really is like the saying goes "hurt people hurt people" Anybody can and has the capacity to change and grow no matter how toxic or self-sacrificing you are, it just takes bravery to face reality and then a conscious choice to do something about negative patterns. Avoid getting in the trap of thinking you can change somebody, you can't. What you can do is make someone aware of something but what they do with that is totally up to them. Life is too short to be reliving old negative patterns set up in our childhoods so decide today you will be brave enough to try another approach and the world will thank you.